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new year resolution

What better way to begin the New Year than to chase away your hangover with a good sail among good friends? And that’s just how the sailors of the Daingerfield Island Sailing Club (DISC) in Alexandria, VA have been ringing in the New Year for the past three years.

Every year on January 1st, they brave the cold and their hangovers to compete in the season’s first frostbite race and at the same time raise funds for the local chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society — thus the regatta’s name, Freeze Your MaSt Off.

The tradition began in 2009 with a couple of boats and a Crockpot of chili waiting on the dock and has grown steadily since. This year’s event included 15 boats, bagpipes, and bottles of rum for the first place boats as well as the boat that raised the most money, and lots, and lots of chili for club members (including the weenies who did not go out on the water) joining in the post-race festivities. While this year’s balmy weather (50+ degrees) may have somewhat lessened the sailors’ bragging rights, plans are in the works to make the event bigger next year.

The event is the brainchild of Sarah Keitt, a member of DISC and the pit crew aboard Chiripa, a Kirby 25. Keitt was diagnosed with MS in 2000 and is an advocate and volunteer with the National MS Society. She was looking for a way to marry her love of sailing with her passion for MS advocacy and came up with the idea of challenging her fellow racers to raise awareness of the disease which affects more than 18,000 people in the greater Washington, DC area where she lives. Nationwide, approximately 400,000 Americans have MS, and every week about 200 people are diagnosed. World-wide, MS affects about 2.5 million people. MS is unpredictable – literally changing people’s lives overnight as they struggle with the financial, emotional, and physical tolls of the disease. The money raised by this year’s race went to support the National MS Society’s emergency fund that helps people meet unexpected financial burdens caused by MS.

DISC is going to make a push over the course of 2011 to interest other clubs around the country to join in the fun, and at the same time support their local chapters of the MS Society. Contact Sarah Keitt at [email protected] to learn how you and your club can become a part of the 2012 Freeze Your MaSt Off.